Closing The Loop: Recycling Mobile Phones Worldwide

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a large and ever-increasing problem on a global scale. Dutch company Closing the Loop has built the first 'closed loop' process for mobile phone life cycles.

Closing the Loop: Recycling Mobile Phones

Discarded old mobile phones in Africa

New phones from scrap

The firm purchases and collects disposed-of scrap mobile phones, and their batteries, in developing countries. In Europe, this 'waste' can be recycled, resulting in 95-99% of precious metals being re-used in production cycles. (Most mobile phones use various sorts of rare earth metals such as copper, gold, vanadium and platinum in their construction and these are, more-often-than-not, finite resources.)

Additionally, reusable phones are purchased in Europe and given a second life in a revolutionary, waste free manner (explained in this short animation). This 'closed loop' reduces e-waste and adds social and financial value to a phone's life cycle: due to their short life cycle, and limited recycling options, some 1.5 billion mobile phones find their way into e-waste streams annually. The company’s ambition is to reclaim every mobile phone from refuse sites and to create employment in developing countries. With projects currently running in 11 countries, over 1.2 million phones have been collected and some 23,000 phones have been given a second life.

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Closing the Loop: Recycling Mobile Phones

Circular economy

The Dutch government has pledged to attain a 100% circular economy by 2050. In just over one generation, the world will be inhabited by nine billion people. This will inevitably put pressure on resources. Societies have to step up their game and switch to sustainable sources in order to feed, clothe and shelter their growing populations. In order to leave behind a liveable earth, this generation has to learn how to use its scarce raw materials more effectively and more intelligently. Closing the loop in production processes is all about creating a future-proof world.